What Is Your Obligation?

by Jay Deragon on 07/03/2008

Most people take other people at their word. In business a persons word is critical to the interactive processes required to reach a result. If a supplier or employee does not fulfill their word or stated obligation things can be delayed and delayed actions set off a chain reaction of more delays, defects and disappointments internally and externally.

Is Follow Through on Our Word an Obligation?

An obligation is a requirement to take some course of action. There are obligations in normative contexts, such as obligations of etiquette, social obligations, and possibly the in terms of politics, obligations are requirements that are to be fulfill. Generally speaking people are obliged to carry out certain actions for other reasons as well, which can be due to tradition or social reasons as well as business terms and conditions. In the business world certain etiquettes both spoken and written as well as unspoken and unwritten.

Etiquette is a code that governs the expectations of social behavior, according to the contemporary conventional norm within a business, society, social class, or group. Usually unwritten, it may be codified in written form. Etiquette usually reflects formulas of conduct in which business, society or tradition have invested.

Is The Social Web Changing Obligations and Etiquette?

Deborah Schultz writes: I have been thinking a lot lately about the impact the 24/7 social web connectedness has on how we connect and behave in personal and professional settings and the impact it is having on our relationships:

“In an era of increased inputs, ambient intimacy** and weak ties, it is now difficult to remember, react and respond to everything and everyone in a timely manner. Are we rude or do we need to reset our expectations of what is proper etiquette in the era of the Social Web?”

In recent conversations with a Fortune 500 company we engaged with parties from multiple divisions. The dialog was centric to how they could improve customer satisfaction using the tools of the social web. In each of the separate conversations with leaders of different divisions (silos) the parties agreed they needed to do the things we were suggesting and was interested in our assistance. Each of the separate conversations with different executives ended with: “Right now we’re pretty covered up with the acquisition of company A or we’re just finishing ABC project or we need to get this scheduled. In each case the parties said “we’ll get back to you within two weeks”.

Two, three and four weeks go by and no follow up. Emails are sent attempting to re-engage the previous conversations and in each case the response is “Thank you for the additional information and yes we need to re-engage our previous dialog“. However they don’t say when and it appears as though one of the following could be true:

  1. They never intended to engage and avoidance is the politically correct thing to do
  2. They are totally distracted with the urgency of the moment and disconnected from obligations made
  3. Their attention spans are fragmented moment by moment and never connected to achieving improvements

Not responding to tweets, invitations and all the social activites is on thing. In personal and business relations fulfilling obligations and following proper etiquette are the bases for developing stronger relations. The social web magnifies behavior and creates transparency to unfulfilled expectations. And companies wonder why they have customer service problems or high employee turnover.

Go figure. What say you?

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